Between 1890 and the 1960s, a bustling trade in used and rare books flourished in New York City along Fourth Avenue, between Union Square and Astor Place. Although the stores that once prospered on this little stretch of street have long since closed, the memories of the halcyon days of the bookselling trade in the city still live in the minds of former customers and store employees. Drawing on interviews and on seminal articles published in the early- and mid-20th century, Mondlin (estate buyer at the Strand) and book collector Meador vividly re-create the passion, wonder and adventure of the book trade as it developed along Book Row. The authors paint portraits of the booksellers who established the Row and who secured its reputation among book lovers. There is George D. Smith, the shrewd but gentlemanly book collector who helped Henry E. Huntington build his own library. Called by many "the greatest American bookdealer," Smith provided an example of the persistence and keen insight into the value of books that became the hallmark of the stores on Book Row. The authors also chronicle other dealers such as Eleanor Lowenstein, whose Corner Book Shop specialized in cookbooks; David Kirschenbaum, who developed a stellar collection of Walt Whitman that formed the foundation of the Library of Congress's collection; and Harry Gold, whose Aberdeen Book Company was the first among the antiquarian stores on Book Row to feature paperbacks, in the 1920s. The authors also reminisce about favorite stores, such as Albert F. Goldsmith's At the Sign of the Sparrow, which specialized in theater memorabilia and which very likely provided the setting for mystery writer Carolyn Wells's Murder in the Bookshop. Mondlin and Meador's affectionate paean to the denizens and dealers of Book Row brings to life the glory days of one of New York City's greatest bygone treasures.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
For about 100 years, secondhand bookstores clustered on Fourth Avenue in New York City between Union Square and Astor Place. Their names read like an incantation: Samuel Weiser, Dauber & Pine, Biblio & Tannen, the Abbey, the Raven, the Corner. They are mostly gone now, save the Strand, whose mighty 16 miles of books are still funky despite a whole new audience online. Mondlin, who is estate buyer for the Strand, and Meador, a collector, have produced a sprawling and remarkably engaging omnium gatherum of names, personalities, and store lore. Some of the people they profile loved books; some of them loved the hunt; some of them mostly loved the mise-en-scene. Each chapter begins with an apt quote, and there are lists, acknowledgments, reminiscences, and photographs (the last not available in galleys). For anyone interested in the antiquarian book world, this will be a very special volume. GraceAnne DeCandido
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